Archive for March, 2008

It’s March, So It Must Be Time to Talk Fireplaces!???

March 30, 2008

Huh? Yes, bear with me – this is important. The fireplace is probably the focal point of any room it occupies. Make sure it remains a focal point throughout the year, not just during the winter. Too many times, I see home owners covering up fireplaces with screens, plants or even play houses. Buyers buy fireplaces, so let’s show them off!

While most newer homes in Northern Virginia have gas fireplaces, older homes are almost exclusively wood burning. For a wood burning fireplace, clean the firebox of any ashes. Clean the firebox windows. If the room smells of burning wood, sprinkle baking soda on any carpets and leave over night, and place one or two boxes of baking soda in inconspicuous places.

Furniture placement may be tricky in a room that hosts another focal point (typically a TV). Classic staging requires the removal or de-emphasizing of competing focal points. We realize this is not always possible. We practice practical staging for our occupied homes and try to accommodate the needs of the family without sacrificing the image we are creating. In general, the furniture should be arranged for fireplace viewing – close enough to feel the warmth of the fire and allow for casual conversation.

The mantel should be cleared of all but a few light items on either side. Odd numbers here, an even number of accessories create too much balance and are actually distracting to the eye. Place a framed print above the mantel to draw the eye.  

Before home staging: Burke Virginia Family Room Before Home Staging  

 After home staging: Burke Virginia Family Room After Home Staging

By keeping the fireplace the center of attention throughout the year, you will appeal to the largest number of buyers – that’s what we are all about!

All the best!

Monica
703-851-2690

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The Unfinished Basement – Showing the Potential

March 30, 2008

An unfinished basement is like a blank canvas; a dirty dingy grey blank canvas. (Can you tell I don’t like unfinished basements?) It’s not that I don’t “like” them, it just that if a basement is unfinished it becomes a dumping ground for the rest of the house.

It is rare when an unfinished basement is neat and orderly. Typically, it is a mine filed of boxes, piles of clothes, holiday decorations. toys and exercise equipment. Since there is so much space, the items are scattered about the floor with little more than irregular walking paths.

So, what to do? How do we turn the mine field into a meadow? My first objective is to clean it out. I don’t believe I have mentioned PODS it these blogs yet. I love PODS. (I can also get your clients a discount!) PODS is a service that drops a self-contained storage unit off at the home, filled by the client, stored in a temperature controlled warehouse then delivered to the new home. Using PODS is a very positive experience. It is the first step towards moving – my clients feel great after there unit is full.

OK, so the first thing to do is clean out the stuff. And I mean really clean it out. Hire some neighborhood kids to haul the boxes up the stairs and load the storage unit. Pack it to the top! Don’t let one inch of these units go to waste. Everything we can remove means another square foot of floor space that a buyer can see.

Next, arrange the remaining items in the basement into a logical pattern. Boxes should be stacked as far away from the stairs as possible – this will emphasize the size of the room. Boxes should be stacked in the middle of walls, not corners. I like to stack boxes 2 to 3 deep and at least 5 feet high with lighter boxes at the top. This maximizes the floor space and minimizes visual size of what is being stored.

Have one area for exercise equipment. Another for kids toys. Another area should be a neat workshop. You get the idea…create designated areas for different functions. This, again, creates the perception of space and gives the buyer an idea of how they can use the area.

If the laundry area is in the basement, it must be orderly. Remove anything that communicates “work” from the area, like an ironing board. Add some inexpensive shelving to get clothes and bottles off the floor. Put some children’s art work around the space to soften it up.

Lastly, dust all the remaining surfaces, especially water heaters, AC units, circuit boxes and laundry units. Buyers look at these when they are in the basement, so make sure they are up to the scrutiny they will receive.

All the best!

Monica
703-851-2690

The Finished Basement – So Much Space, So Little Personality

March 17, 2008

In Fairfax, Loudoun and the further-out counties, it is common to for homes to have basements. Further, most homes up for resale have finished basements. Many older homes in Arlington and Alexandria might have little more than storage space under the home – these areas are typically not finished and we will discuss those next week.

So, for a Northern Virginia buyer, a finished basement is something of an expectation. But simply having a finished basement is not enough. Stagers must show the potential buyer how the space can be used to increase the overall living area of the home.

Of course cutting the clutter, eliminating the personal elements and neutralizing the wall color are Phase 1. These topics have been discussed before.

After Phase 1, we get down to the real work. The most important element in a basement is light. The basement has to be transformed from a cave into an inviting living space so potential buyers credit the home with the feature. Lighting needs to appear more natural and warm, and should come from several sources and levels. Recessed lighting is fine, but if that is all you have, you may look more like a showroom than a home. Lighting should come from table lamps, floor lamps and torchieres. Windows need to be open to the light and clean of any mud or dirt that accumulates from being near ground level.

If the room is one large expanse, create specific purpose areas, such as a play area, a media area, exercise area and so forth. Show potential buyers that the sky is the limit in terms of the room’s functionality.

If the area is subdivided into separate rooms, make sure there is flow and that the rooms make sense. Make sure the washer and dryer are far away from the media room! No one wants to hear the spin cycle while they are watching a movie.

Do not add plants to a basement unless there is ample opportunity for natural light. Plants look out of place where they would normally not thrive. Maybe dried flowers, but that is as far as I go.

One last thing – you must be attentive to musty odors. Nothing will ruin the chances for a home like the potential for mold. If musty odors are present, the source of the odor must first be fixed. Then, clear everything out of the basement, clean the carpets and wipe down or seal and repaint the walls. Smell-test everything that is returned to the basement. If there is a question, do not let it back in the area.

Transforming a basement from a cave to an attractive living space takes creativity and persistence. Do it right, and you have increased to usable floor space by as much as 50%. How’s that for a return!

All the best!

Monica

Preferred Staging

the art of home preparation

703-851-2690

The Home Office – “Don’t Touch My Stuff”

March 4, 2008

“It’s my stuff, and it’s exactly where I like it!” Anyone staging a teen’s room expects this kind of resistance. But what if it comes from a middle-aged adult? How do you react?  

Well, when staging a home office, this major resistance is pretty common. How do you overcome resistance from your client about their most personal space and successfully create a space someone will want to buy? A stager has to become part organizer, that’s how! 

To stage a home office, we need to show the owner how they will maintain their productivity – and show potential buyers how organized they will be with the great home office they are about to purchase.  There’s also a more serious side to staging the home office; you never want to leave any business or personal information out that others might see.  This includes bills, checks, phone books, correspondence, and any sort of mail in general.  I’ve walked out of open houses knowing more than I need to (and in some cases, more than I want to) about the current owner, where their parents live, how much their phone bill is, and what type of catalogs they get.  

If the office has piles of papers on the surface areas, that is typically the current stuff, and anything in the drawers is older, less relevant information. We start by cleaning out the drawers. By focusing on drawers first, you create space to accommodate the surface area clutter. Home owners are typically fine with relocating their older files to another part of the house. We ask the home owner to label each of the file cabinet drawers. We transfer the drawer label to a box and move the contents of the drawer into the box. The box is then moved to an accessible storage area (closet, basement or garage). 

To organize the papers on the surface area before they are placed in the drawers, I have the owner create “major” categories. Major categories allow the information to be placed into a logical area, without spending a huge amount of time creating file folders and then trying to find exactly the right folder for any particular piece of paper. Essentially, we are shuffling the piles. It is much easier to file in general groups, as this will allow the home owner to locate their papers very quickly. 

The piles go into the drawer space we created by moving out the older papers. Each drawer is labeled with the respective piles it contains. I do the labeling on the inside so the exterior of the file drawers remain clean. Now, inevitably, the surface area will become cluttered the day after staging, so we always keep at least part of one drawer clear for the new clutter that will accumulate. The homeowner can quickly sweep the new accumulation into the empty drawer before a showing. 

Most home offices can be austere places, rather than rooms in which you want to spend time. Book cases should be no more than half full, and add some interesting accessories to the shelves to create some warmth. Adding some wall art and a plant near the window also goes a long way to making the space seem inviting.  

Taming the wires that feed the office machines can be accomplished with plastic wire covers. They look like mini-vacuum cleaner hoses. Press the wires into them to clean up the spaghetti jungle around desks. 

All the best!

Monica

703-851-2690

Preferred Staging

the art of home preparation